Herod as "Solomon"
By the end of his second decade of rule Herod was ready to undertake something even more ambitious. He would build a grand temple and palace in Jerusalem and in doing so combine the role of Solomon with that of David. Precedent among the later kings of Judah and Israel in Old Testament times had made this a perfectly acceptable enterprise (at least for those Jews who still recognized the institution of kingship). It was shown that Jotham (Piye/Sargon II) was first typecast as the Joseph of his generation, but later combined the roles of Jacob and Isaac-David. The more divine roles that a king accumulated in his lifetime the greater he was considered to be.
Herod was vilified as an oppressor. Yet the heavy yoke placed on his subjects only served to associate him more closely with Solomon, who also pushed his people to the breaking point with his monumental building programs. Solomon, it was said, had reduced Israel to "grievous servitude." (1 Kings 12:4) To say that Herod had a flair for architecture would be a gross understatement. He was the most renowned builder anywhere in the Near East during his lifetime, upstaging even Rome in this regard. And he also applied this genius in the ordering of his own family.
Josephus explains in some detail the care that Herod put into matchmaking among his children and grandchildren, with the houses of his sister Salome and brothers Joseph, Phasael and Pheroras, and with other royal houses in the Near East. We may assume that he was just as meticulous in assigning the mythological roles that his immediate descendants would play. These roles had always been reserved for members of the royal family, and once his throne was firmly established it became the prerogative of Herod to fulfill them as he saw fit.
Like the historical Solomon ("The Great Hor," Amenhotep III), Herod championed Jehovah (Amen) in Jerusalem and Israel, but was accommodating to his so-called foreign wives and their gods elsewhere. Herod was wise like Solomon in everything he did, and his marriages were no exception. He had censured his brother Pheroras for his poor choice in marriage and to the point of alienating him.
Shortly after inaugurating construction of the new Solomonic temple Herod appointed a new High Priest. He was the son of a renowned priest of the Jews in Alexandria of Egypt. After making him priest in Jerusalem Herod promptly married the priest’s daughter, also called Mariamne, who had captivated the city with her great beauty. She was most attractive to Herod for her unassailable pedigree within a Jewish priestly family. Intermarriage with such a family was again primarily political and an attempt to produce another heir that would be acceptable to the Jews not only as a Crown Prince but also as a High Priest.
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.